Creating a safe mobile workforce

ITIJ 211, August 2018
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Mark Parrish, Regional Medical Director at International SOS, and James Wood, Security Expert at International SOS and Control Risks, map out the road to a safe and secure mobile workforce
 
The world is shrinking. 
At least, in travel terms it is. A more globalised business world means that employees are more likely to be spread out across different continents and will be travelling more regularly than before. While this presents significant opportunities for businesses, it also brings the challenge of managing a mobile workforce, where each new destination has its own set of risks and potential business continuity issues, along with opportunities. 
From terror attacks to natural disasters and medical emergencies, employees’ safety and security are never far from an employer’s mind. The need to assess risk and advise and assist employees whenever and wherever needed has never been more evident. Not only is it a duty of care for any organisation to implement appropriate preparation and prevention methods, this can also result in proven cost and insurance savings. 
Below are some key tips to help keep your travelling employees safe and maintain their productivity, as well as reduce the risk of liability in the event of something going wrong. 
 
Health checks 
When it comes to keeping employees safe while travelling for work, being on the front foot can make a big difference for both the business and the traveller. Our Return of Prevention study looked at the cost difference between relocating an employee and having to terminate an assignment early due to poor health. The study found that there is a cost-benefit analysis of up to $2.53 for every $1 invested in preventative measures.
Prevention is the key, particularly when it comes to medical needs. So before business travellers even jet off to their next destination, companies should implement medical checks to help identify and manage any pre-existing conditions. This can be anything from arranging access to certain medicines employees will need while away, to making sure their dietary requirements are met.
A more globalised business world means that employees are more likely to be spread out across different continents and will be travelling more regularly than before
Alongside this, businesses should also provide information on medical requirements for a destination as far in advance as possible to ensure preventative measures such as immunisation can be arranged.  
Being aware of seasonal changes and the difference in seasons depending on where employees are travelling is also key. Even though flu season is over in the northern hemisphere, those travelling to the southern hemisphere are at risk and should be aware of that. At the same time, with summer in full swing in Europe, businesses need to provide information on infectious bites such as mosquitoes and ticks, especially as these bites can transmit serious diseases such as Zika virus, West Nile virus and Lyme disease. 
 

risk dial feature

Cyber security 
In today’s environment, where global risks are constantly evolving, the preparation doesn’t stop there. Cyber threats are ever present and businesses need to ensure employees are not just aware of less ‘traditional’ risks, but that they know how to mitigate these.
With cyber crime predicted to cost businesses between $2.1 trillion in 2019 and $6 trillion by 2021, information security while travelling on business is an area of particular concern. Whether in-transit, or at their destination location, business travellers – and by extension their corporate networks – are potentially more vulnerable to malicious cyber and physical information security threats. To protect against some of these risks, businesses need to make sure that all devices being used by employees while abroad are up to date with the latest security software, and that employees are using good password management. International business travellers should also be made aware of the potential threats associated with using public WiFi.
businesses should provide information on medical requirements for a destination as far in advance as possible
 
As the risks will vary per destination, researching these ahead of the business trip is key. When a traveller returns from their trip and they have witnessed suspicious activity on any of their devices, make sure to ask IT to run a check for any cyberattacks and update their security where necessary.  
 
Accommodation
Businesses should not only be fully prepared when it comes to general health and safety, but also when it comes to booking employees’ accommodation abroad. Careful consideration of security and health issues should be given. For example, did you know that it is advisable to book a hotel room on the opposite side of the main entrance, and to make sure it has the appropriate security fittings? The employee should also be made aware of any emergency procedures to follow, and he or she should always be easily contactable by the company. 
 
The boy scout’s marching song
To help keep your employees safe and avoid loss of time and productivity, they need to be adequately prepared for business travel. They should be able to access the support they need, especially when they are in unfamiliar and remote locations. Above all, when it comes to international business travel, an employee’s safety needs to be put first. Well prepared employees and a robust, tested emergency plan can go a long way towards helping them and the company to mitigate any risk. 
Ultimately, being proactive will always beat being reactive in business travel risk management.